©Hugo Glendinning

Bourne’s Supremacy

A radical, a genius, and the nation’s favourite choreographer: Matthew Bourne talks to Chantal Borciani about bringing The Red Shoes to Wimbledon

He was the man to revolutionise ballet for a generation, who transformed Swan Lake into a mesmeric swirl of bare-chested male swans. This year, Matthew Bourne is reprising his triumphant adaptation of The Red Shoes, which won two Olivier Awards and wowed audiences when it opened in 2016.

Based on the iconic 1948 Powell and Pressburger film, Matthew’s revived dance production is even bolder and more beautiful this time around as the blockbuster choreographer injects his peerless passion, vision and imagination into the piece, which comes to New Wimbledon Theatre in March.

“Set in the theatrical world of a touring dance (ballet) company, it is actually about dance and dancers. The film’s genius is to make that theatrical world at times surreal, larger than life and highly cinematic. My challenge will be to capture some of that surreal, sensuous quality within the more natural theatre setting,” explains Matthew.

Performed by his internationally renowned dance company New Adventures, and featuring rapturous sets and costumes as well as live music performed by the New Adventures Orchestra, The Red Shoes tells the tale of obsession, possession and one girl’s dream to be the greatest dancer in the world.

A quick look at the show reel from the November 2019 opening night of this tour shows critics, the dancing elite and just about every major star waxing lyrical about the story, the showmanship and the choreographer. It’s clear that once again, a magical retelling has been reawakened under Matthew’s hand.

“The main theme of The Red Shoes is love versus art, or career versus love. It is the love story of two young artists (one a dancer, one a composer) and the fight between that love and the lure of the highest artistic achievement as represented by Boris Lermontov, the dance company’s legendary impresario, who believes that you cannot be a great artist if distracted by human love! I have also explored how the fairy tale world of a ballet company and the stories it tells can actually blend into the real life tale of love, ambition and artistic and personal fulfilment, until the two are barely distinguishable,” Matthew explains.

For audiences, Matthew is offering another big spectacle on stage. “I think everyone has pulled out all the stops. Lez Brotherston [set and costumes] has done some of his best work; Paule Constable with the lighting; and the score is big, lush Hollywood, sweep-youaway music,” he continues.

“With Terry Davies we have created a score from the early works of the genius film music composer, Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann is mostly famous for his scores for the films of Alfred Hitchcock, but the music for The Red Shoes is taken from an earlier period (30s and 40s). I have unearthed some great dance music as well as some beautiful music from movies such as The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Citizen Kane. Lez Brotherston’s challenge has been to create an adaptable theatrical setting, (on stage and backstage) and a range of locations from London, to Paris to Monte Carlo, but to also allow for those flights of fancy that take us out of the literal theatrical world and into the sensuous and surreal world of the artistic experience and endeavour. It’s a big, lush production, so that’s what people can expect.”

With so many career highs, is it still hard to get fired up for new challenges? “I think for me, now, I enjoy working most with young talent. For example, many of the company who are performing in Swan Lake in the US at the moment, weren’t alive when the show first opened nearly 25 years ago. Working with them brings a new energy and dynamic to the piece. Similarly, with my most recent production, Romeo and Juliet, it was a fantastic opportunity to nurture young talent. I had been trying to think of a new way into it and the opportunity to channel the enthusiasm and talent of young people is what got me excited about it.

“I’m really proud that for nearly 20 years, New Adventures has built an unprecedented audience for dance throughout the UK.  We have an audience who are fiercely loyal, questioning and open-minded and I’m hugely grateful for their trust and enthusiastic support. I’m really looking forward to returning to the New Wimbledon Theatre in March.”

The Red Shoes is at New Wimbledon Theatre 10-14 March.

For your chance to win tickets visit